Story Highlights Tab is Concise, but Potentially Troubling

6 Oct

For my post this week, I was determined the find something flawed with a content package and/or article on CNN.com– since I felt like all of my commentary has been overwhelmingly positive . I searched through archives and back pages, looking furiously for something that I could comment negatively on– perhaps somewhere there is a missing time line? Or a map where a diagram could better suffice? Determined to find something to comment negatively on, I searched and search– without much luck. Yes, the site is oversaturated with video, more so than any other news site– but CNN is a broadcast news organization, so it is only natural that it’s site would be rich with video content. The politics tab is immaculate (with a thorough “political ticker,” a political blog that is updated several times an hour;) the “health” tab not only contains breaking news in Health stories (the lead is a moving article depicting a man battling cancer who has undergone more than 200 treatments) but contains other tabs that live within the health tab (such as “living well,” “fitness,” and “mental health”.)

Yet one thing on CNN.com that I had never noticed before did bother me slightly: the “Story Highlights” bar that ran down the side on all news articles. I was reading and article on Obama’s new education plan for Community Colleges (the first ever White House Summit with this particular target) and the highlights sidebar appeared on the top left side on the article.

The highlights sidebar looked as so:

I found this feature to undermine the notion of journalism in print form. If I want a summary for an article, I will click on the video that CNN always includes, and if I want a quick recap I will read the lead, nutgraf and conclusion (like I have been trained time and time again and a Journalism major.) Sure, the highlights are convenient, quick and concise, but when has anyone seen such a feature in a newspaper?

This feature also made real the notion of the shift of journalism from print to online. Professor Johnson has been teaching us the difference of writing for print and online, and this feature really made that dissonance clear to me: the content will change. Perhaps I have to get used to this, and understand that a new medium will mean new style choices. Still, I can’t help but fear that people will bypass the content of the article– and question what this will mean for those (like myself) who put the work into writing the articles.

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